The first Hooters restaurant opened in 1983, and the sports bar chain has grown to more than 460 locations across 44 states. While the restaurant’s specialty is chicken wings, the skimpily clad waitresses are the chief selling point. Hooters Girls serve burgers and beer in tight white tank tops and short, orange running shorts. Playboy may feature a calendar of the Playmates of the Year, but Hooters has a skin-baring calendar where guys can check out the hottest Hooters Girls from around the world. The restaurant’s tagline –delightfully tacky, yet refined -is represented in its iconic owl logo. Hootie the Owl has wide suggestive eyes, and the anatomical implications of the owl’s globular gaze are a cheeky, wink-wink double entendre. Juicy burgers, cold beer, sports, and hot babes –Hooters may have been the first to market the dining experience as male fantasy, but the aging brand now faces stiff competition from a rapidly growing niche of “breastaurants.”
What’s a breastaurant? For the most part, it’s a sports bar and public man-cave featuring busty and scantily clothed waitresses. Breastaurants use the traditional Hooters model –young, Playmate hot food servers dressed in barely-there costumes –and then revamp it with new twists and themes (rustic lodges and Celtic pubs) and varied menus (pot roast and shepherd’s pie instead of burgers and chicken wings).
According to a report in 24/7 Wall St., in the last ten years some of America’s biggest chain restaurants have lost more than 50% of their sales and have closed hundreds of locations. One time popular eateries like Big Boy, Ponderosa, Steak and Ale and Bennigan’s failed to update their brands or menu options, and the recession proved to be the final nail in the culinary coffin for many of these chains. But the question begs to be asked: if they had put their waitresses in tight, skimpy, cleavage-baring outfits, would these restaurants have escaped their fate?
Technomic, a food industry research firm, reported that America’s top three breastaurant chains each had a sales growth of 30 percent in 2013. While the chains represent less than 1 percent of the nations top restaurants, the niche upstarts are booming in what has otherwise been described as a beleaguered food industry, one in which even pioneering restaurants like Applebee’s and Hooters have declined. From waitresses dressed in mini-kilts and skimpy plaid push-up tops to eateries featuring Cowgirl Tuesdays and Schoolgirl Thursdays, to a logo that’s an image of two pointy, snow-capped mountains promising patrons “scenic views,” here are 7 non-Hooters breastaurants that are lifting the sagging food industry.
7. Mugs N’ Jugs
Despite featuring a name as catchy as Barely Legal, this Florida-based restaurant claims to be family friendly. The sports bar has a game room, pool table, karaoke, and more flat screen TVs than Best Buy. Its wings have been voted #1 in Tampa for several years in a row. Mugs N’ Jugs has only two locations in the Tampa and Clearwater area, but sales grew from $700,000 in 1998 to close to $4 million in 2007. The waitresses at Mugs N’ Jugs wear tight tank tops and shorts, which is everyday attire in the Sunshine State, so perhaps it’s a family friendly restaurant after all.
6. Show Me’s
Who is a Show Me’s girl? According to the Missouri-based restaurant’s website, “a Show Me’s girl is a waitress who is attractive, fun-loving and good at her job. She is our face to the public.” It just so happens that 60-70% of Show Me’s girls are college students, 70 to 80% are former cheerleaders, dance team members, high school and college athletes, and aspiring models.
The restaurant’s name is modeled after the logo on the Missouri license plate: The Show-Me State. When You Have an Appetite for Fun is Show Me’s slogan, and there’s nothing more fun than watching a St. Louis Cardinals game in this sports-themed bar and grill as a former cheerleader serves up a signature Big Bossa Fried Fish sandwich. Show- Me’s restaurants are located across the United States.
5. Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill
Founded in 2001, the first Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill opened in Austin, Texas. The unbeatable mix of sex appeal, sports and delicious pub grub led to the opening of 10 more locations over the next five years, including restaurants in North Carolina and Oklahoma. Allegedly, the inspiration for Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill came as current owner Doug Guller sat at a bar watching rugby on the Australian coast, when an attractive waitress simply asked, “Wanna’ beer, mate?” Eureka. That was Doug Guller’s “vaya con Dios, brah” moment, and the concept for Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill was born. The waitresses at Bikini’s Sports Bar and Grill are (you guessed it) dressed in teenie weenie bikinis and featured in calendars. There’s even an annual Miss Bikinis USA contest.
4. Cowgirls Espresso
Sports bars dominate the breastuarant scene, but Cowgirls Espresso serves up a different style cup: lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and the famous 32 ounce Buckin’ Bronco which features for shots of espresso. Established in 2002, Espresso Cowgirls has 17 drive-thru coffee locations in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area. Maxim magazine named Cowgirls Espresso the “Sexiest Coffee Shop in America” in 2012. The lingerie and bikini-wearing baristas mix things up with different theme days including Military Monday, School Girl Thursday, and Fantasy Friday.
3. Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery
Founded in 2003, the Arizona-based Tilted Kilt reaffirms its tagline: A Cold Beer Never Looked So Good. Modeled on Scottish, Irish and English pubs, the Tilted Kilt has 90 locations worldwide. Dressed in short plaid skirts and push-up plaid bras, Kilt Girls serve Celtic-themed dishes like shepherd’s pie and Irish nachos. Despite the breastaurant label, CEO Rod Lynch is quick to point out that the Tilted Kilt is more PG-13 than NC-17 as the servers can’t have tattoos, piercings, or dyed hair. Still, the red tartan Celtic schoolgirl outfit shows an ample helping of décolletage, midriff, and exposed leg. Annual sales at the Tilted Kilt topped $124 million in 2013.
2. Twin Peaks
With its double entendre logo (two, pointy snowcapped mountains) and tagline (Eats. Drinks. Scenic Views), Twin Peaks borrows liberally from the Hooter’s marketing playbook. Based in Texas, with 24 locations in 10 states, the mountain lodge-style restaurants are billed as the ultimate man caves. The Twin Peaks Girls serve up Girls Next Door charisma with hearty, made-from-scratch comfort foods like meatloaf, pulled pork and Buffalo wings. Bikini contests are held on location, so despite the rugged, mountain lodge theme on certain nights Twin Peaks has more of a Spring Break atmosphere. However, Twin Peaks owner Randy DeWitt downplays that and insists that the appeal of the restaurant goes beyond the obvious. “Hearty meals and a focus on making customers feel special are what really keeps them coming back,” he says.
1. Nyotaimori (Body Sushi)
Body sushi has nothing to do with the booming business of American breastaurants, per se. However, the Japanese custom challenges ideas of food, presentation, eroticism, and visual stimulation –the latter of which is the main point in eateries with barely clothed waitresses. Known in Japan as nyotaimori, meaning “female body presentation,” body sushi (or naked sushi) transforms the visual titillation of the breastaurant into a sophisticated and elegant art form.
Body sushi originated in Japanese Geisha culture. It involves eating delicately arranged and creatively designed sushi off of a naked female model. During the culinary ritual the female model doesn’t talk; in fact, she’s taught to envision that a velvet curtain surrounds her body. Only a few restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Montreal have adopted versions of the nyotaimori custom. It can also be found in some high-end, private Gentlemen’s Clubs. In 2003, a Seattle restaurant tried to incorporate body sushi into its menu but was met with protests from feminist groups. Eating raw fish off a naked body isn’t the most sanitary practice, so if feminist protest groups haven’t shut down body sushi restaurants, then health and licensing officials have pushed them underground.